Category Archives: Books

New Book Trailer: Weakness is the Way by J.I. Packer

This new book, Weakness is the Way by J.I. Packer, was commended to us in class today.  I intend on grabbing a copy…maybe you should too.

Weakness is the Way by J. I. Packer from Crossway on Vimeo.

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Summer Reading List for Church Planting

images (33)In about four weeks my family leaves for California so I can be a part of Grace Advance – a summer training initiative for pastors seeking to give leadership to developing churches.  It’s a ministry of Grace Community Church which is the church where John MacArthur has been pastoring for over 40 years.  I feel humbled and privileged that the elders of our church are sending me there as we move toward planting a church next year.

At Grace Advance they’re having us read a lot of books this summer, so I thought it might be informative to list them out, especially since I had not heard of several of them previously:


The Best Old Testament Commentaries…and They’re Not Just for Pastors

downloadI had a birthday last week, and on top of an evening out with the family and lots of “Happy Birthday” Facebook posts, I was stoked to open the mailbox and find that I am still getting birthday money from my loved ones even though I’m 32 years-old.

So, I had a bit of a shopping spree on Amazon, and two books I jumped on quickly were the volumes I needed to complete my set of Dale Ralph Davis’ Focus on the Bible Old Testament Commentaries.  Davis was an Old Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and now he is the pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Davis wrote the commentaries in this series for Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings.  Last year I taught 1 Kings in my 12-18 year-old guys’ Sunday school class and found that his book was the best I had encountered in Old Testament commentaries.  It was solid theologically and extremely insightful without being lofty.  It was readable and accessible without being shallow… and I must say, pretty funny too.  I highly recommend his stuff!


Neighboring Your Neighbors

images (21)This weekend I finished reading The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.  I give it a hearty recommendation as a book that gave me just the kick in the pants I needed at this time in my life.

The book operates on the premise that many of us Christians do relatively well when it comes to loving our neighbors at church and inside our Christian ghettos, but not so well when it comes to our actual neighbors – those who live next door, across the street, and around the corner.

I think the book is written mainly for those who have already come to the conclusion that they need to reach out to their neighbors.   It is less of a theoretical, “here’s why you should love the guy next door” kind of book, and more of a how-to manual for neighborhood ministry.

One of the strengths of the book is all of the examples of real people who made real sacrifices to show the love of Christ to those who live closest to them spatially.  This book recommends a plan that doesn’t just look good on paper, there are people who are taking it seriously and working it out.

We have lived in our house for nearly seven years and as I look back over that time I see a handful of piddly attempts to love our neighbors.  When I picked up this book, the Lord was already moving me toward repentance for my neglect of being a good neighbor, but the sad thing is that we are moving out of this house in about six weeks.  There is still time for some small opportunity, but I urge you to pick up this book and ask the Lord to help you love your neighbors in light of his love for you.  Don’t make the mistake I made.


What Keeps Us from Loving the People Next Door and Across the Street?

images (14)I’ve been reading a book lately that often has me slowly exhaling as I nod my head up and own.  I nod my head because I agree and I exhale slowly because I know I’m not doing what the book prescribes.  The book is called The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.  The concept of the book is simple: we have a divine responsibility to obey the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, with our actual neighbors; those who live next door, across the street, and around the corner.  Many of us Christians do this well with those who are a part of our church or our clique inside the church, but let’s face it, we have  dropped the ball countless times with those who live closest to us.

One of the reasons for this is found in a sentence I read last night: “…it’s easy to make assumptions about other people when you don’t really know anything about them.”  That’s probably not something new and profound for you, but it’s something I needed to read.

As we see our neighbors out mowing their grass, putting the kids in the van, tinkering around in the garage, or taking their dogs for a walk, we interpret what we see.  But the problem is that what we see provides very little information about who our neighbors really are.  Add to that our tendency to think the worst of people and you’ve got a recipe for a safe, independent, yet ungodly way of living.

Church, if we will take the time to engage our neighbors in real conversation, then we will discover that many of the assumptions which keep us from having relationships with them, will fly right out the window.  So, today, will you pray and ask God for the grace and courage to interact with your actual neighbors and then make a plan for how to do this?  I pray so…for you and for me.


A Better Way to Think About Giving Away Books for Easter

images (8)If  you didn’t already know, WTS Books is having a big sale on books for Easter.  Two books of particular note are Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper on sale for $3 (or $2 if you buy five or more) and The Cross He Bore by Frederick S. Leahy for $3.50.

These books, no doubt, are discounted so drastically because WTS Books wants us to buy them in bulk and give them away during the time of the year when we are thinking most about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  To this I say “Amen!”  I love to give away books, and I imagine many of you do as well.  This is a good thing, but perhaps we can do more good with an opportunity like this.

Giving away books (whether to believers or unbelievers) is pretty easy.  You buy a book, give it to someone you know, and tell them you think it’s a good book for them to read.  Sure, you have to muster up some courage and dish out a little cash, but it’s a pretty small commitment.  Plus, unless you keep asking that person about the book, you never really know if he/she read it.  I can’t tell you how many copies of Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die I’ve seen at Half-Price Books.

But here’s a crazy thought, what if you bought the book, gave it to someone, and said, “I think this is a good for you to read… I want to read it too, so how about we read it at the same time and talk about it over lunch… and lunch is on me.”  Yeah, he might make up an excuse or flat-out tell you “no”, but you’ll never know unless you try, and if he says “yes”, it could be the start of a great conversation that may lead to that person’s salvation if he’s an unbeliever or a deeper faith if he’s a Christian.


Redeeming Story Time: Where the Wild Things Are

images (7)I know that Where the Wild Things Are is a classic of children’s literature, but I only just read it to my boys last night for the first time.  You probably remember the story: Max, a young imaginative boy, is making mischief one night and when his mother catches him she calls him “Wild Thing”, to which Max replies, “I’ll eat you up!”  His mother then sends him to bed with no dinner and that’s when Max uses his imagination to sail to a distant land where the wild things are.  He quickly gains the respect of the monsters there and they make him their king.  They have a lot of fun together, but soon Max wants to be “where someone loved him best of all.”

When I can, I try and use the stories I read to my kids as a way to point them to greatest of stories; the true story of God sending his Son to rescue his people from their sins.  So, last night after we read the end of the story where Max returns home and finds a hot meal waiting for him in his room, I asked the boys, “Who do you think brought him that food?”  To which they replied, “His mommy.”  We then proceeded to discuss the reality that Max did not deserve the food that was waiting for him, but that his mommy had mercy on him.  I asked them if their mommy ever gave them something good when they didn’t deserve it, to which they answered “yes”.  Then I asked them why Mommy showed them mercy.  There was no answer, so I explained that Mommy shows them mercy because God showed her mercy when he sent Jesus to die for her sins.

Where the Wild Things Are has unique, eye-catching illustrations and it’s fun for boys to pretend that they are monsters, but I really think the appeal of the story for me is the mercy of a loving mother.  Having said that, it would be really easy to just end the story and appreciate the love Max’s mother has for him, and there wouldn’t be anything inherently wrong with that.  But if there is One whose mercy far exceeds any mercy we find in this world (and there is), then parents, let us tell them of God who “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).


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